Madeline “Maddie Jo” Robbins doesn’t slow down.
The Durango High School sophomore swept her way through the Colorado Cycling League’s five races, including the state championship event in Eagle, to win the varsity mountain biking state title and lead the Demons to a team championship. In the winter, she buckled into her alpine skis to race during the Colorado High School Activities Association races in only Durango’s second year of its return to varsity skiing under the CHSAA banner. She had the team’s best results at the state championships in Leadville at Ski Cooper, as she placed fourth in the giant slalom and slalom events.
Robbins solidified her sophomore season with strong finishes at International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctioned juniors races at Fontana and Bonelli in California to go with a first-place finish at the UCI Junior Series cross-country mountain bike race at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.
Robbins also was selected to represent USA Cycling for three Canada Cup race events, and she made the podium in all three races. Her strong fall, winter and spring gave her a leg up to be selected as The Durango Herald’s Girls Athlete of the Year, slightly ahead of Bayfield junior Jordan Lanning and Durango senior Abby Scott.
“She is the type of student athlete every athletic department wants to have representing them across the state,” said DHS athletic director Adam Bright. “She attacks her schoolwork like she attacks a downhill on a mountain bike or a pair of skis.”
Fun is Robbins’ key word. Through every sport and race, her top priority is to keep it fun.
Robbins’ huge season began in the Colorado Cycling League, part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. She was utterly dominant in every varsity girls race.
“The NICA races are all just a lot of fun,” she said. “They’re a lot more low key than a lot of races we do for USA Cycling. To win state, I had to know I could do it and work on not going immediately very hard. I stayed with the group for awhile. On the final lap, there were a lot of people cheering. I said, ‘It’s time to go.’ I sprinted, nobody followed, and that gives you more adrenaline. From there, I kept going.”
Robbins kept going all the way into ski season during the winter. A former super competitive skier, Robbins has taken a step back in skiing to focus more competitively on the mountain bike. Still, she skied to fourth in giant slalom and slalom at state.
“Those races are a lot of fun, low key compared to the races I used to do really competitively,” she said. “I take that as fun as I can but also want to do well. In skiing, when I get stressed I do a lot worse.”
Robbins hopped back on her mountain bike for the spring and went to the Canada Cup with USA Cycling. She placed third in her first race in late March in British Columbia. She then went to California and placed fifth at Fontana and seventh at Bonelli. Her win in Utah led to another phone call from USA Cycling, and she was picked up for two more Canada Cup races. She placed fifth at Baie Saint Paul and then third at Mont-Tremblant. While she was honored to wear the USA jersey at international races, her selection meant she had to miss the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, where race director Gaige Sippy believed she was the favorite to win the Queen of the Mountain honor for combined results in the road and mountain bike races. It would have been a remarkable accomplishment for such a young rider.
Still, the call to represent her country was more pressing.
“That definitely was one of the more exciting things of my life and a big goal I’ve had for awhile to represent the U.S.,” Robbins said. “I was really stoked on that. Getting on the podium is super cool. It’s fun to make everyone proud and show the U.S. can be there, too, and compete against the Canadians on their home turf.”
Robbins’ goals now will shift toward mountain bike nationals and earning a trip to the world championships this year. Then, she will look to defend her mountain bike state title in October when the Colorado Cycling League brings its championships to Durango. The state skiing championships also will be at Purgatory Resort outside Durango this year, giving her chances to win state titles at home in two sports. That’s something Bright would love to witness.
“I definitely want to defend my biking state title, and I’m sure the whole town will be out to watch,” she said. “I want to make everyone proud.”
Editor’s note: The Durango Herald selected high school sports players of the year based on a unanimous decision between sports editor John Livingston and sports writer Karl Schneider. Increased consideration was given to multi-sport athletes who showed leadership in their communities.